NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 24, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment Nos. 07-03-00408, 07-03-00502, 08-01-00123, and 09-09-01537.
John B. Fabriele, III, attorney for appellant.
Bruce J. Kaplan, Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Brian D. Gillet, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel; Marie G. McGovern, on the brief).
Before Judges Ashrafi and Hayden.
Defendant Lemont Love appeals from the December 10, 2010 Law Division order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
The record reveals that, on March 16, 2010, following a plea hearing, defendant pled guilty to charges stemming from four separate indictments, including fourth-degree obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1 (Indictment 07-03-00408); third-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2b (Indictment 07-03-00502); third-degree distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 2c:35-5a(1) and 2C:35-5b(3) (Indictment 08-01-00123); and possession with intent to distribute of a CDS (cocaine), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and 2C:35-5b(3) (Indictment 09-09-01537). The indictments were based on various incidents occurring between 2006 and 2009.
On June 22, 2010, prior to sentencing, defendant moved to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant contended that his anxious state of mind affected the voluntariness of the plea. He stated that he felt "tremendous pressure" and "mental anguish" due to all the criminal charges he was facing and that he was not able to plead guilty voluntarily because he was too nervous. He reported that he felt coerced by his attorney and by the trial judge, who spoke to him off the record about the significant jail exposure he was facing on all four indictments. Defendant stated that the "fear and anxiety of hearing the worst case scenario" caused him to become "overwhelmed" and plead guilty even though he was innocent.
In denying the motion, the judge observed that "a whimsical change of mind" was insufficient to overturn a guilty plea. The judge stated that there was a factual basis for each charge to which defendant pled guilty. Based upon defendant's statements during the plea hearing, the judge found that the plea was knowing, voluntary, and intelligently given.
Additionally, the judge reviewed the factors identified in State v. Slater, 198 N.J. 145 (2009). He first determined that the defendant did not assert a colorable claim of innocence. He also found that enforcing the plea was fair since defendant voluntarily accepted the extremely beneficial plea offer because he was facing three times as much prison time if found guilty. As a result, he denied defendant's motion to withdraw his plea. Subsequently, the judge also denied defendant's motion for reconsideration.
On December 8, 2010, the trial judge sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement to an aggregate ten years imprisonment with a five year parole disqualifier. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the judge also dismissed the ...